From Lamplighters. Photos by Chana Blumes:
Ignite it and they will come.
What began as small sparks of hope and determination in four young couples and a lone educator around a Crown Heights dining room table in November 2009, was celebrated on Sunday night, June 15th, by two hundred people around thirty elegantly adorned candle-lit tables in one of the newest venues in Brooklyn.
Lamplighters Yeshivah’s second annual gala fundraiser, IGNITE, was an evening of creative cuisine by chef Yuda Schlass, a silent auction of art by acclaimed artist Elke Reva Sudin and by the school’s own students, and musical entertainment by renowned Jewish singers Yoni Z and Levi Robin. But more importantly, it was a night of celebration and inspiration — and renewed commitment to action.
A night of friends, family, community members and supporters coming together to reaffirm their dedication to revolutionizing Jewish education and strengthening their platform toward igniting the hearts and minds and futures of every Jewish boy and girl — without exception.
Opening its doors in September 2010 with twelve students ages three to five, Lamplighters Yeshivah concluded its fourth year this Friday, bursting at the seams with seventy five students ages three to ten, and yet finding room to welcome an additional ten students next Fall.
Its mission? As co-founder and executive director, Yocheved Sidof, put it in her address Sunday night, to thunderous applause: “Chabad is already master at giving people a second and third chance at Jewish education. Lamplighters’ mission is to get Jewish education right the first time around.”
The school provides young Jewish minds a holistic view of life and living, whereby G-d’s presence, Torah’s instruction, and Chasidism’s wisdom brighten every corner of a child’s world from the impressionable start. Utilizing empirically tested methods gleaned from Montessori and behavioral science, Lamplighters supports each child and his or her unique way of learning — in academics and in cultivating emotional intelligence — by creating an environment where each student learns at his or her own pace and according to their individual interests, strengths and talents. — By turning “Educate the child according to his way” from slogan into reality.
And it’s catching on with electrifying excitement.
As Sidof explained in her call to action: “We have 70 boys and girls on our waiting list — but this is not something we are celebrating. We WANT to say ‘Yes!’ to more children. We want to share our successes with other schools. To provide this unique model of personalized education to more and more educators and students, in our own community and in the Jewish community at large… We are ready to take our vision to the next level. We are looking for sustainability, for stability — and for a permanent home.”
The night opened with a heartfelt rendition of the Rebbe’s nigun, Tzomah Lecha Nafshi, by singing sensation Yoni Z, himself a passionate advocate and supporter of the school.
This “preparatory nigun” was followed by an excerpt of a video-address of the Rebbe, courtesy of Jewish Educational Media. The Rebbe’s message focused on the lesson taught by the Temple menorah, that the flame of every child’s faith must be cultivated to the point of mature independence, such that it “rises up on its own.”
Building on this theme of Torah light, Rabbi Dov Yonah Korn, the dynamic shliach of Chabad of the Bowery and a proud new parent in the school, shared brief words as to why he chose Lamplighters for his child and stressed the obligation, set forth by the Rebbe, to ‘personalize our fire’ — to express one’s unique, individual relationship with Hashem.
Korn’s address was followed by the viewing of a soul-stirring film by Crown Heights veteran videographer and editor, Yankee Teitelbaum (Jewishfilms.com), featuring vibrant footage of daily life inside the school’s walls, as its educators, parents and founders explain what, how, and most of all, why they do what they do.
Welcomed to the stage to a minute-long standing ovation, Reb Moshe and Rivkah Schack, Heads of School, shared some personal experiences that helped inspire and shape their commitment to “Al Pi Darko” chinuch, adding an additional dimension to the evening’s theme: “When parenting, educating, giving advice — when ‘lamp-lighting’ — the point is not to create extensions of ourselves in others, but to give others the tools to discover the special light only they possess and to transform that light, on their own, into a glorious luminary.”
Yaakov Shapiro, one of the school’s founders, presented the Lamplighters Hidden Spark Award to an unsuspecting participant of the evening, Mr. Yossi Sidof, who was recognized for his remarkable dedication and support of the school since its very inception — mostly from behind the scenes.
Lamplighters Yeshivah was originally founded as a grassroots effort of families and community members. In the four and a half years since, countless individuals have been crucial to its success, but their roles are often largely unknown to those outside the immediate circle of the school’s leadership.
The Lamplighters Hidden Spark Award — the recipient of which is a surprise prior to its presentation, even to the honoree him or herself — is inspired by these unsung heroes.
Rivkah Schack presented the Lamplighters Luminary award to long-time Lamplighters believer and advocate, Mrs. Sara Muchnik, wife of artist Michoel Muchnik.
A leader in the Brooklyn-Jewish community in behavioral science and special education, Muchnik attended Lamplighters’ extensive summer training in Jewish Montessori and sent a child who is on the autistic spectrum to learn once a week at Lamplighters.
After experiencing the breadth of the training and seeing the incredible success with this child, she will be opening a Montessori classroom for children at the Williamsburg ABA center she directs in conjunction with Yeled V’ Yaldah. Muchnik thanked the school’s leadership and community: “You have turned me into a Lamplighter!”
But schools are not fueled by the flames of passion alone.
In June 2012, Mr. Eli Nash of Miami, Florida received an email from a complete stranger, the school’s executive director, Yocheved Sidof, introducing to him the concept of the school and its wider mission. Exactly two years later, Nash, recipient of the night’s second Luminary Award, took the podium at IGNITE to explain the journey that led him to choose Lamplighters as one of his proudest philanthropic endeavors.
He also spoke about the courage of its trailblazing founders and families and the importance of the parental involvement the school not only welcomes, but encourages. “I am proud to not only be a supporter of Lamplighters, but a vocal one as well — insisting, imploring, demanding that they are congratulated and encouraged as they climb the ladder to success.”
The night concluded with two hundred candles lit by the crowd and held proudly high, as a song written by Malka and Meir Schack (children of Reb Moshe and Rivkah Schack) was sung by Levi Robin to a tune they composed in honor of the event.
The evening also marked the launch of a new fundraising endeavor: “Torchbearers,” a monthly donation drive to provide community-wide support and sustainability to the school.
If you identify with the need for Lamplighters’ work and want to learn more about becoming a “Torchbearer,” visit www.iamatorchbearer.com
To learn more about Lamplighters Yeshivah, its educational philosophy and community, watch the video shown at Sunday night’s gala here.
Or visit them online at www.LamplightersYeshivah.com
To learn more about our summer training for assistant teachers, paraprofessionals, and therapists in Jewish Montessori please contact [email protected] or call 718-355-9138.